So, in case the obvious hasn’t been stated enough the world over…it has been a very long time since we have all had the benefit of a school routine in our lives. Whether or not your children have been champing at the bit to get back to life at school or the opposite, where the pace and flow of life at home has suited them perfectly, the world now looks a little different and there is a lot I think we can all take from having this extended time at home with our families.
What being in lockdown forced me to look at was the impact I’m having and am able to have on my children and their learning.
I started to ask myself a few questions…
As a parent, what sort of things are my children able to learn from me, our home and what we surround ourselves with?
As we know, learning isn’t just acquiring knowledge, it’s discovering the world, local and afar, and understanding what that world can look like through other peoples’ eyes and not just our own. Its skills, mastering new things, but not being afraid to fail sometimes. It’s creating values and sharing beliefs and having lots of conversations around the table about both.
Ruby Whitman aka @rubydiamonds is a mother, home schooler and blogger www.saltandsand.co.uk
We asked Ruby to share with us a little more about home schooling and life behind the beautiful squares on her Instagram feed.
Hello! My name is Ruby, I live with my husband of 16 years and we have five children. We live in Suffolk, never far from the sea or outdoors
We love day trips out adventuring and equally love spending the afternoon indoors curled up watching a movie together!
Our children are 16, 14, 12, 9 and 18 months.
We are now in our second year of home education.
What does a “typical” day look like for you, or is everyday different?
Some weeks can look pretty similar especially in the colder months because weather isn’t always on our side. But in the summer we try and get out as much as we can to explore the nature around us. We are very fortunate to live so close to English heritage, National trust and RSPB locations which we make good use of. These are a great way for children to learn whilst not even realising. There is so much to learn from the history of those places!
We tend to get up and ready by 9 (breakfast, dressed, teeth etc) then gather round the dining table and get out some books or their laptops to collect information on their chosen project for that week.
Maths, English and Science are spread out over the week and I don’t do anymore than 30 mins of each at a time as they get what they need in that time and that’s about as long as they stay focused!
What would you say is your favourite part of being a home schooling family?
The freedom. One of the things for us when they were in school was the feeling of being so tied into school times. Especially for any breaks away. We want the children to have a broad view of where they live, and the chance to travel further afield to appreciate other cultures and lifestyles too. This is just not an option for us during school time and school holidays were so expensive. With a big family too it made it near on impossible.
The other reason for us was that the children just didn’t get time to wind down, to be kids, to not have the constant pressure of homework or deadlines making up the numbers to ‘fit in’ on subjects they didn’t even enjoy. Life is far too short to waste it on things you don’t enjoy.
Photo : @rubydiamonds
What would be your top tips for anyone considering or already on the journey of home schooling their children?
Don’t put pressure on yourself or your little one to learn things you think they should be doing at their age. All kids do things at their own pace, they WILL get there.
Lots of picture books, using the correct words. Even when your toddler starts to talk and says things in their own way, always say it back to them with the correct pronunciation.
I firmly believe in ‘open ended toys’ from a young age. Things like wooden animals, Grapat figures or bowls with acorns etc and some building blocks. All of these are so good for learning to use imagination, solving problems, maths aids even when your little ones are preschool age. And they last for years, no replacing batteries every few days!
I really do think playing is the most important part of learning and engaging with a child. There is so much little ones can do with toys that is learning without even realising.
Games like sorting colours and sizes are great for little ones. Bodie is 19 months and loves sorting out or lining up his Grapat brots. I count as we go and he’s started to voice the T sound when we get to the number TWO!
DO’s and DON’Ts – things that you have learnt that work really well, and things that you might avoid!
Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s so easy to do but I promise you all it does is damage. You’ll have unrealistic expectations. Just because another home ed family does it, doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
Don’t try to replicate the classroom. Home education is a totally different set up, you’ll find your groove as it gets going.
Don’t go out and buy all the expensive books, stationery etc. Along the way you’ll work out what you can manage with and what you may need to get. You'll be amazed what you can do with a small supplies stash!
Do take things slow. No need to make a long schedule for the week, remember it’s a new time for ALL of you. Little and often is the best start, don’t overload the child instead pick one thing they’d like to do and go with that. You'll know when you are done on that subject.
Do allow yourself bad days. If you have a day where you are in pj’s all day, the dishes don’t get done, everyone is grumpy, the baby is cranky, no one wants to sit and do work, it’s OK!!! Tomorrow is new day.
Do trust your own decisions. Once we’d made the decision to home educate our children all the opinions came out the woodwork. It was very hard sometimes not to get weighed down with it or start to doubt our decision but remind yourself why you did this and ignore the negative comments!
Photo : @rubydiamonds
How do you make time for yourself?
This is a hard one! I'm still trying to work on this. I'd say this is probably one of the hardest parts of it. I knew the sacrifice and I believe as a parent that it’s what you take on when you have kids isn’t it? Sacrifices on the daily! But we all need a break sometimes. My husband works full time and leaves very early so it’s not like I can even get some time before the house wakes up really either!
But don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even half hour on your own to walk or run errands kid free can do wonders for your mental health.
Making some time in the evening for a child free bath, maybe even read a book. Just resets yourself for the next days’ challenges. Self care doesn’t have to be big.
How to have individual times with each child?
This isn’t something I find easy actually, especially now I have a toddler. He can be very demanding at times but then having older ones that can help is a bonus too. You'll never get it 100% right, there will be swings and roundabouts always!
But I do try and get some time with them, maybe walking up to the shops with just one, or getting them to help me make the dinner, do some baking or even sometimes when I’m taking a bath often one will come in and we will chat about their thoughts or interests. (See how I’m never alone!!!)
I hope you have enjoyed reading a little bit about our journey to home education. Remember we are all different, just because I feel strongly about some things doesn't mean you will too. Everyone, every family is so different.
I also chatted to Suzie Arnott, a professional teacher, home educator and mother of 4. She also happens to be married to my cousin.
What struck me about our conversation was the amount of time we spent talking about character.
“When you are close to your kids for that amount of time, it highlights things” she says. “Flaws in you, flaws in them come to the surface, and you realise so much of the time you are spending together is about developing character (in both them and you).
We spend a lot of time playing games, they are so good for their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. You find out a lot about peoples’ character when you play games! Being able to win and lose graciously is a life skill, it’s also about learning to laugh with one another and have fun.”
In my house (I own up) games of any kind have the potential to backfire and get very heated very quickly, so how do you avoid those kind of conflicts and what happens when they do inevitably happen?
“Time out! We give each other space, but we always re-group and make sure we talk about the issue and then resolve it. It is waring, but it’s so important. You can’t be under the same roof day in day out without resolving issues and conflicts however big or small they may seem, everyone gets to have their say, and everyone learns how to forgive and how to apologise well.
What I’ve learnt becoming a home schooling mum, is that there are seasons for everything, what might work really well for a while, will need adapting later on. I find there are lessons in just about everything and we can learn in so many creative ways from songs, memorizing games, playing, sport, cooking together, being creative and very often it’s in the simple things that greatest lessons are learnt.”
Pictured: Suzie and Family